When we consider that our DNA can be decoded symbolically, it is intriguing to muse about who or what might have written or conceived it – since the computer code that we know and use every day was obviously written by teams of programmers.
And when “spiritual” writers like Eckhart Tolle or Gary Zukav discuss our true nature or being, they refer to who we really are as “no thing” – or the empty space within which everything arises.
Sometimes this is called consciousness, or mind, or God. I believe that such words or concepts are like the variables in computer code—ready to be filled with “meaning” but as many so-called “mystics” and poets have said, words or mental concepts will never capture the essence of our true nature.
Sometimes this is also referred to as “Life,” energy, or some creative force.
All of these descriptions seem obviously parallel to some “thing” we know very well – namely software.
But what is the nature of software, like Microsoft Word?
When I “run” Microsoft Word, the software I am using to create this document, it is an ethereal (non-physical, energetic) manifestation of the intentions and brilliance of a team of incredible minds – from Bill Gates on down through his organization. (No matter what you think of Microsoft, you need to give it credit for creating the Office suite of software, including Word. Similar credit can go to Apple for its creations, or Google or Adobe (PhotoShop) and on and on.
But what happens when software “runs” (lives)… and it is loaded on top of more basic sets of instructions called an operating system?
Word can open a document – a real “thing” – but prior to that – it opens to essentially “no thing” – a blank page or a computer screen with thousands of pixels.
What appears on that screen or page is what we consider “real” – Word without a document makes no sense and provides no frame of reference. It exists mainly as an agent of potentiality.
(It is interesting to compare this reality to what we now know about the mass or location of subatomic particles—in quantum physics there is no “now” or “there” – only their potential until they manifest. In the case of Word, no document exists until “I” type it.)
But as humans we are constantly fooled by the “content” of our experience—the stories and rationalizations we use to describe what has occurred in the past, or perhaps may occur in the future.
Because our experiences sometimes hurt, and sometimes give pleasure, “we” seem to be real.
But the reality is that EVERYTHING simply appears as the words I type do next to my cursor in Word, as I type them, in the present moment.
Life is literally a blank page being filled every moment by what appears as our experience. It is not surprising that it seems to happen to “us”–and we are conditioned by powerful beliefs to see ourselves as separate from the process, that we assume that “we” are the cause of our experiences, or in control.
A major component of the phenomenon of life is that along with our experience, like the play by play announcer at a sporting event, a verbal auditory description (words as thoughts) generally accompany the experience, and analyzes and judges it later.
Again, through our conditioning we assume that these thoughts (which we deem to be our consciousness) are truly us; often we identify them with a specific organ – the brain.
But of course if our brain ceases to function properly or even at all, as difficult as that situation may be, “we” still live – some of our software keeps running our lungs, heart, kidney and even the undamaged parts of the brain.
When all of this becomes apparent we can begin to observe the tendency of our thoughts to assume authority over our identities and regain a measure of control—this can happen through meditation and daily self-observation.
A great example is the express lane of the supermarket when “you” are in a hurry and someone pulls out a checkbook or exceeds the 15 items. A program (impatience) begins to run, with a story (this is unfair and unacceptable) but at some point another “you” can begin to become aware of this tendency, see it as counterproductive, and just by noticing, change your behavior.
Suddenly there is a small space between “you” and the voice in your head. “You” become more calm and realize it’s not the end of the world. Your anger program is stopped. Your compassion program runs instead.
The energy you manifest has changed; you have been reprogrammed.
You may well ask by whom.
Another set of words and stories may well emerge to let you know that your meditation practice is “working,” and indeed you are becoming “enlightened.”
(Or another story may tell “you” that your Prozac or Xanax is working).
But if you go deeper you will notice that this too is just another layer of verbal analysis.
Another layer of conditioning is trying to take “credit” (or account) for what happened.
But if you are truly sincere in your observation through more and more of such experiences you will begin to acknowledge that even the “you” that takes credit for growth or patience has appeared on a much larger “blank page.”
This level of self-observation is a powerful practice. It can lead to deep and profound insights.
After all, the “you” that you think you are will surely die. Like the words on this screen, it will fade out or be erased. Your survival program (deeply conditioned) uses this fear as well, to deepen your identification with your thoughts, that often seem to predict danger and protect you.
And yet something else, beyond or deeper than what merely feels like you, is absolutely and certainly “running” energetically–and “it” is aware of all that is happening.
It lives organically through your neurons, blood vessels, skin; all harmoniously and miraculously controlled by software that we call DNA.
It is no “thing” – not your sensations, not your feelings, and not even your thoughts.
But still all that you really know for sure, as you live this moment, is that you are here and alive.
Alive is simply another word for being – or consciousness…
An energetic manifestation creating a space in which appearance and experiences arises and disappears.
Like the blank page when Word begins to run.
Consciousness is software. Life is intelligent.